Evolution Reflected in Development

Below is an image of the developmental path from human conception to adult in comparison with evolutionary path from prokaryote to human.

Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour. Comparative stages may be vastly different in detail, but the similarity of general lifestyles and consecutive stages are there to be observed. Continue reading

The Fridge-o-matic Challenge

I once offered nonlin.org the ‘fridge-o-matic’ challenge. The idea was to give me a number from 1 to 9 (a shelf in my fridge/freezer), and a lateral location Left, Middle or Right, and a depth locator Front, Middle, Back. That gives 81 sectors. I go to the named sector and fumble for the nearest organism (he’d have to trust me not to cheat). If it’s a stew or pizza I’d need more info. Then I’d need a chromosome number in that organism, and a gene number on the chromosome. We could shortcut the back’n’forth by giving numbers 1-50 and 1-10,000 which I’d then normalise to the actual counts.

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The Reformed Joker with a Serious Message

Russell Brand provides some food for thought in this video.

He quotes Edward F. Edinger explaining that we need a central living myth to give us a reason for our existence. “Meaning is lost, and in its place primitive and atavistic contents are reactivated. Differentiated values disappear and are replaced by the elemental motives of power and pleasure, or else the individual is exposed to emptiness and despair.”

Look at how much extra wealth Jeff Bezos has acquired since the pandemic took hold. Coronavirus is changing our world. Society is becoming more divided than ever at a time when we should be working together and seeking unity.

And here I am pointing two fingers, one at society in general and the other at myself.

We need people like Daniel C. Wahl and Declan Kennedy if there is going to be any sort of future worth living.

 

 

 

The genetic code and intelligent design

Joe G has been looking into the posts here at TSZ. Apparently this inspired him to get into a series of outbursts of rage. Well, maybe not. Looking at his blog rage seems to be his normal state. Back in his blog he’s stated fuming about what he thinks are facts that prove intelligent design, I mean Intelligent Design, with capitals because, let’s not forget, ID is about “God.” So I’ve been trying to explain to him why that’s profoundly and irremediably wrong. Here I’ll expand a bit on that, and thus willl try and avoid contaminating other threads with Joe G’s angry prose.

To get this started, I’m going to check Joe G’s latest attempt, Joe G starts thusly:

The genetic code is evidence for Intelligent Design based on the following facts:

Facts!? Wow, this is starting so well, I’m sure I’m going to be convinced! Good-bye sinful atheistic life!

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Abiogenesis: The Second Data Point?

Will Perserverance find it on Mars?

Abiogenesis, the question of the origin of life on Earth, is a fascinating one and on current information we only have one data point on which to base hypotheses. The facts are that life exists on Earth in amazing variety in many different niches from the coldest, darkest oceans to the driest deserts. Yet that life in all its diversity shares much in common.

With few and very interesting exceptions, the genetic code—the way information that terrestrial organisms use to function, grow and reproduce is stored—is shared across all extant species (and in extinct species where DNA is still recoverable). I know of no other plausible explanation for this than life’s diversity radiates from a common ancestror. So far direct fossil evidence takes life back at least 3.75 billion years and molecular phylogeny suggests an even earlier date for the universal common ancestor. It is reasonable to infer that a molten Earth was sterile and that life based on carbon and water could not have existed on this planet before it was cool enough for water to condense on its surface.

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The arrival of individual self consciousness.

Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?

The part:
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

The whole:
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.

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Design by Natural Selection: The LTEE

Lenski’s Long Term Evolutionary Experiment

Richard Lenski began the LTEE with 12 populations (six Ara^+ and six Ara^-) of the bacterium Escherichia coli on 24th February, 1988. The experiment is currently housed at Michigan State University and has run continuously apart from a short break while relocating to the present site and another during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Attack Ideas – not the people that hold them!

I heard this first at Uncommon Descent from blog-tsar, Dave Springer. I think it is a reasonable aspiration. Do we at TSZ fall short? Is it possible to attack the ideas of Donald Trump without being disparaging about the person of Donald Trump? I’ll admit to a lapse there. But in general, I think contributors support their claims and naked ad hominem seems rare here to me. Please correct me in comments if your mileage differs. Continue reading

Gunther Laird critiques natural law in The Unnecessary Science

Back in 2008, Catholic philosopher Edward Feser wrote a spirited defense of classical theism and natural law theory, which made quite a splash. Although Feser’s book, The Last Superstition, was subtitled “A Refutation of the New Atheism,” it was primarily a ringing reaffirmation of teleology as a pervasive feature of the natural world – a feature highlighted in the philosophical writings of Aristotle and his medieval exponent, Thomas Aquinas. What Feser was proposing was that the modern scientific worldview, with its “mechanical” view of Nature, was a metaphysically impoverished one; that human beings have built-in goals which serve as the basis of objective ethical norms; that the existence of God could be rationally established; and that religion (specifically, the Catholic religion) is grounded in reason, rather than blind faith. Since then, Feser has authored several other books in the same vein: Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide, Philosophy of Mind, Five Proofs for the Existence of God, Neo-Scholastic Essays, Scholastic Metaphysics, and most recently, Aristotle’s Revenge.

Until now, Feser’s skeptical critics haven’t been able to land any decisive blows, and many of those who have tried have come away with bloody noses. (The Australian philosopher Graham Oppy, who recently took part in two very civilized online debates with Feser on the existence of God [here and here], is one of the rare exceptions; Bradley Bowen, who reviewed Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God three years ago, is another critic whom Feser treats with respect; Arif Ahmed, who went toe to toe with Feser on the existence of God, is a third critic who held his own against Feser.) However, Feser is now definitely on the ropes, with the publication of a new book titled, The Unnecessary Science, by Gunther Laird. The style of the book is engaging, the prose is limpidly clear, and the author possesses a rare ability to make philosophical arguments readily comprehensible to lay readers. As a further bonus, Laird is a true gentleman, whose book is refreshingly free of polemic. Throughout his book, he is highly respectful of Aristotle and Aquinas, even when he profoundly disagrees with them, and while he has occasional digs at Feser, they are lighthearted and in good humor. The scope of Laird’s book is bold and ambitious: the target of his attack is not merely the God of classical theism, but the entire Aristotelian-Thomistic enterprise of natural law theory, which he attacks on three levels: metaphysical, ethical and religious. Amazingly, despite the fact that Laird has no philosophical training beyond the baccalaureate level, he makes a very persuasive case: skeptics who read his book will come away firmly convinced that Feser has failed to prove his case, and that natural law theory needs to go back to the drawing board. And they will be right.
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From arithmetic, geometry and kinematics through mechanics to life.

Steiner’s first lecture of the First Scientific Lecture-Course, the so called, ‘Light course’, given in Stuttgart, on the 23rd December 1919, can be read here and it can be listened to here

He explains how the natural scientists of his day proceeded. They were interested in categorising, looking for causes behind phenomena, and observing phenomena to arrive at the ‘laws’ of nature. Goethe did not proceed in this way. He was not interested in looking for and speculating about unknown causes or categorisation. He looked at nature and observed how it was forever changing and studied this metamorphosis in great detail. He wished to stay within the observable to ask what it could tell him without speculating about any laws or hidden world behind the one observed.

The natural science are forever looking for pointwise forces to explain life. But, according to Steiner, life cannot be explained in this way. Life is formed out of the universal peripheral forces. These forces are not the same as the mechanical pointwise forces which are open to measurement. Steiner explains it thus: Continue reading

Yuletide greetings, Bonnes fêtes, Happy Holidays!

Above all, here’s hoping for a better year next year: Covid vaccines prove safe, effective and are universally available — USA re-establishes itself as a beacon of democracy — UK re-embraces Europe (or newly independent Scotland joins the EU along with a united Ireland) — consensus and effective action world-wide on climate change.

Suggestions on a postcard or post them here. Remember no topic is off-topic.

Santa destroys Christianity?

Winding down for a very quiet Christmas allows me plenty of time to read and one of my favourite places to read for news and comment is the Guardian. I like it because it was founded in 1821 as a moderate pro-business paper and morphed into a more radical stance with the arrival in 1872 of C. P. Scott as editor and later owner. Later, ownership was transferred to the Scott Trust (now the Scott Trust Endowment Fund) to ensure editorial and financial independence. That the online version is fully-financed and free to all is a bonus, too. I should declare a personal interest as a fourth generation descendant of C. P. Scott is a family friend. Continue reading

An A-Z of Unanswered Objections to Christianity: Q. The Virginal Conception of Jesus

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Early Renaissance fresco. Convent of San Marco, Florence, ca. 1440-45. Image courtesy of Magnus Manske and Wikipedia.

[This essay is part Q in my series, An A-Z of Unanswered Objections to Christianity on the crisis in Christian apologetics. Other parts completed to date:F. Angels, demons and aliens and H. Human Origins.]

The question I wish to discuss in this post is not “Is it true that Jesus was virginally conceived?” or even “Is it possible that Jesus was virginally conceived?” but “Is there any good evidence (historical, prophetic or otherwise) that Jesus was virginally conceived?” What I want to argue in today’s post is that even for someone who accepts the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the evidence for Jesus’ virginal conception is unpersuasive and the arguments marshaled in support of it are riddled with fallacies.

I would like to make it clear at the outset that I am not asserting that Jesus was conceived naturally. Generations of Christians down the ages have drawn hope and inspiration from their belief that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and who am I to contradict them? After all, I’m one of them. What I am questioning is not the belief itself, but the justification for treating it as an essential teaching of the faith, as the vast majority of Christians continue to do (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Calvinists and “Evangelical Christians”). As far as I can tell, there is no rational justification for doing so, and any attempt to argue for the Virgin Birth is sheer foolishness. Treating the doctrine as a “hill to die on” can only damage the credibility of Christianity, because it turns every argument against the doctrine into an argument against Christianity. Here’s why I think we should at least listen to the doubters, and why Christians who choose to believe in Jesus’ virginal conception should do so tentatively, acknowledging that they might, after all, be mistaken.

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Life Force, Compensation, Connections & the Ebb and Flow of Nature

In the latest post in my previous thread I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson. The first paragraph read:

Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light, in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids and of sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle, the opposite magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.

The term, ‘life force’ will most probably invoke many criticisms and objections. But if we take it to mean observed vitality and let it stand at that without speculating any further, we can study its ‘ebb and flow’ in the natural world around us. We can see these processes in a wide variety of life forms. Continue reading